Thursday, 2 June 2011

Zhangjiajie to Fenghuang (9th of September)

Having planned to leave Zhangjiajie city at 8.30 a.m. we got the bus out at 2.30 p.m. On the no. 3 bus from the hostel we passed our note written by the Chinese student to the ticket lady, which said something along the lines of ‘Please tell us when we are at the bus station, thank-you’. After points and smiles and ‘xie xie’s we got to the long distance bus station. Producing another note, this time written by the man working at the hostel, we got two tickets for the four hour trip to Fenghuang for 60RMB each. A man standing near the counter kept saying Fenghuang and a lady pointed at him and said Fenghuang. He then pointed to himself and mimed driving, so we had to presume he was the bus driver. He picked up my rucksack and rushed out the door. Thinking I might never see it again I darted behind him with Jenny following behind. In the process I knocked a lady’s hat off and didn’t notice, but thankfully Jenny was there to act out an apology.

Being the driver of a bus from one tourist hotspot to another he had clearly had practice in hand signalling to foreigners. He managed to communicate to us that:
-It was hot in the bus and we should stand outside
-There was a toilet to our left
-If we were hungry we should go and buy food at one of the stands
-We could open the window but would need to close it when the air conditioning was put on (although I thought he might have meant when it started raining)
-We should sit at the front for the better view (even though we had tickets for seats 15 and 16).

As the bus got going we realised we had put our lives in the hands of yet another crazy bus driver. He was eager to overtake absolutely everything (even on bends) and beeped his horn all the time. The horn was extremely loud and we wondered if we’d get off the bus deaf. Thinking about it the driver’s brilliant hand signalling skills might have been partly attributable to deafness he brought upon himself.

The countryside was lovely though and it was really interesting to look out the window. There were puppies everywhere, most of them beige coloured and of course very sweet. One puppy was lying at the edge of the road its tail stretched out behind it and its head in the ditch drinking water. The villages were pretty and so different from home. We passed through the watermelon-growing region where there were polytunnels in the fields and stalls of melons at the side of the road. Later we went through the tea growing area with tea bushes rising up the hillsides and a giant teapot monument. Outside the houses chilli peppers were being dried in the sunshine, as well as rice and maize. There seemed to be a big road building project underway, with half built bridges towering over the villages and lots of noise.

After a hot, noisy and rather hairy trip through the Chinese countryside we approached the riverside town of Fenghuang, (another) hotspot for Chinese tourists. Not entirely sure where we were, let alone where to go we attached ourselves to a Chinese couple who helped lead the way to the riverside area. It was very lively and picturesque in the town. All the buildings were lit up, music was pumping and people were everywhere. Along the noisy alleys by the river were s
hops and stalls selling all sorts of colourful things from shoes to animals woven from grasses.

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